After a year where the film business was defined almost exclusively by breaks and delays, Warner Bros. took. decisive action 3 December.
It had only been a couple of weeks since the studio had announced that in the face of increasing coronavirus numbers, it would not delay the Christmas release of “Wonder Woman 1984” again. Instead, it would launch the film simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, the new streaming service from parent company WarnerMedia.
While media / telecom executives and Wall Street investors seem to be making big investments for a streaming-centric future, they will expect to see actual profits soon.
It turned out that this decision ̵
This was welcome news for moviegoers eager to finally see “In the Heights” (already delayed by about a year thanks to the pandemic) or “Dune” (ditto). But while “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot seemed to embrace this approach, declaring that it was time to share their film with fans, other Warner Bros. filmmakers were less enthusiastic.
For example, “The Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan complained that leaders in Warner Bros. “do not even understand what they are losing.” He claimed that filmmakers had gone to bed and thought they were working for the largest film studio and woke up to find that they were working for the worst streaming service. (Nolan’s “Tenet” was released in theaters in the fall, and its disappointing ticket numbers, especially in the United States, probably played a large part in Warner’s decision.)
And in a guest column for Variety, “Dune” director Denis Villeneuve pointed the finger at AT&T, which bought Time Warner several years earlier. He suggested that the streaming-centric strategy had less to do with the pandemic and more to do with the overwhelming launch of HBO Max over the summer.
With the launch of HBO Max so far, AT&T decided to sacrifice Warner Bros. ‘the whole of 2021 slate in a desperate attempt to capture the audience’s attention,’ wrote Villeneuve.
Barely more than a week after the Warner Bros. announcement, Disney had a big presentation of its own and released ambitious streaming plans for the next few years, with 10 Marvel shows, 10 Star Wars shows, 15 Disney / Pixar series and 15 Disney / Pixar feature films all in motion for Disney +.
Disney’s announcements were not met with the same revolt and controversy as Warners – it did not represent a major shift in its theatrical strategy (the Marvel Studios movie “Black Widow”, for example, is still scheduled for a traditional release in May, for example), and in contrast to WarnerMedia, the announcements did not blind filmmakers and cast doubt on their compensation.
The message to the industry and the audience was the same: Even though Disney does not leave the theaters directly, it clearly sees streaming as its future, with the studio willing to restart any intellectual property (“Turner and Hooch”! “Swiss) Family Robinson”! An “Alien” TV series!) To attract potential subscribers.